Remember the 2001 Draft? The Tigers, with the benefit of having extra picks from losing Juan Gonzalez in free agency, snagged Kenny Baugh in the first round, then in order, infielder Michael Woods, and pitchers Preston Larrison and Matt Coenen. It was given plenty of praise; Baseball America even named it as the baseball draft in the game.
Five years later, of those four, only Larrison is still with the organization. Baugh was traded to San Diego and released this past May. Michael Woods was never able to stay healthy, and was released earlier this year. And Coenen was traded to the Braves three years ago, but sputtered out in Double-A.
In fact, Jack Hannahan and Ryan Raburn are the only two players in the organization to have made it all the way up the ladder and make an appearance in Detroit, and even then, it's not saying much, as the two have combined for a total of four big league hits.
So, look no further than 2001 for evidence why a team should never get too excited about a draft. Plus, you never when a diamond in the rough will come along and suddenly make the draft a great one, like the Tigers '02 draft, which produced Joel Zumaya as an 11th rounder, immediately making the draft more successful than ‘01's, based solely on the two months of relief work Zumaya has turned in so far.
Clearly, the Tigers have decided to focus on the college route under scouting director David Chadd; both this season and last, the Tigers main focus has been on acquiring talented, college players that can come right into the system and begin to produce.
While the possibility of a diamond in the rough is always possible, this draft's success will likely go hand in hand with the success of top pick Andrew Miller. Miller was arguably the top player on the entire draft board, but with five teams ahead of the Tigers all being known to go cheap in the draft rather than pay a high price for a premium talent. So, when Miller's representatives floated a rumor that he was looking for an eight-figure contract, the five clubs ahead of the Tigers balked. The Tigers however, did not.
After going through lengthy negotiations with both Justin Verlander and Cameron Maybin, the Tigers are no strangers to having to work with a player driving for a high price. But the Tigers wouldn't have made the selection without thinking they could get him signed, and really, as the top player in a weak draft, Miller has doesn't have great bargaining power in threatening to return to school and re-enter a potentially stronger draft, after being the top player on most team's boards.
It's also likely that this selection influenced the Tigers later picks. Players like Ronnie Bourquin and Ryan Strieby were selected higher than most expected them to go, and that could have been by design, as the Tigers look to save money on other picks to dedicate the allotted draft money to Miller.
It's a sound strategy if that indeed was the intention; overall, this was a weak draft class, and being able to get one premium player (that would be a high pick in any draft) at the risk of sacrificing limited players for even more limited players is likely a good avenue to take. If the best player available in the second round only was expected to be a fringe starter, and a guy they could get for significantly less money was expected to be a below average starter, the Tigers could simply grab a number of those ‘below average starter' caliber players, pay them all the same (which would be far less than the slightly better player would command), and hope one of them pans out.